Business Magazine

The Industry Atwitter – How Professional Services Firms Can Use Twitter to Grow Business

Posted on the 19 January 2012 by Combi31 @combi31

It seems that all anyone can talk about these days is Twitter-and the lingo can be inundating: Tweeps, Twibes, Tweets and Twords all abound in this mysterious land of microblogging. Yes, a lot of people in the A/E/C industry have been talking about Twitter, but do any of them actually get it? It seems that many marketing and technical people alike view Twitter as “just another social network” – a place to talk about how you’re feeling today and what you ate for lunch. But that simply is not the case. Twitter is quickly becoming one of the quickest and most effective ways to communicate with your audiences.Let’s first address the main issue: what Twitter is (and isn’t). By definition, Twitter is a “microblogging” platform. You set up a username/password, and you’re simply asked the question: “What are you doing?” Then, you’re supposed to answer that question in 140 characters or less (that’s letters, numbers and spaces-not words!). Your username is whatever you choose, and it begins with an “@” sign in Twitter land.You can also create a profile in Twitter. You’ll want to make sure you include your company’s website address, and it’s a good idea to run the messaging by your public relations guru to make sure it’s on-brand. You have extremely limited space, so use it wisely (no three-paragraph boilerplate, here!).You can then find people to “follow,” and others will undoubtedly start to follow you. I’ve found that the trickle tends to start very slow, adding one or two followers a day or week, but gradually, your following can grow exponentially if you post interesting or relevant content and links.Okay, so how does this factor into a professional services marketer’s toolkit, and how on earth are you going to find time to cruise Twitter all day?It’s important to recognize that Twitter is far more than a personal communication service. Businesses around the world are utilizing its framework to reach out to their publics, start interactive dialogues and make connections. A couple examples:

  • Zappos.com: this mega shoe retailer’s CEO has a Twitter account and 547,000+ followers to boot. It seems that people are mesmerized by his incessant microblogging, and they just enjoy a peek into this businessman’s daily routine. It also generates interest in Zappos.com, which drives traffic to the site and ultimately, shoe sales.
  • The Centers for Disease Control: When the Swine Flu pandemic broke out, the CDC quickly accumulated 92,000+ followers. If they needed to get out immediate news, they were just a few keystrokes and a click away from reaching a huge target audience.

It’s also vastly important to note that you do not have to spend your entire eight-hour day perusing Twitter if you want to get results! In fact, quite the contrary is true. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of tools that have been developed specifically for Twitter, and a couple of them actually allow you to queue tweets for a later time or date. You could spend one hour a week or month programming tweets to be sent to your followers at a later time. One of the best I’ve found is Twuffer, and another one to check out is TweetLater. (And by the time this article is published, there will probably be even more.)Another issue you may have encountered while trying to use Twitter is their somewhat rudimentary user interface. Have no fear; there’s a solution for that, too. Of the hundreds of Twitter tools that I mentioned before, many are dedicated to managing your tweets and even multiple accounts, if you have them (I, for example, manage my personal and business accounts all from one manager using Twhirl). Twhirl is my favorite, but there are many others including Tweetdeck and Twitterific. They all offer different features, so check them out to see what works best for you and your organization.Have a Blackberry or iPhone? Twitter’s got that covered, too. You can download Twitterberry or one of the several iPhone apps to take your tweets mobile. I use Tweetie for iPhone, and it’s great since it, again, handles multiple accounts and shows me tweets in real-time.To actually start sending and receiving messages, you need to know a few key things:

  • Retweet: reposting someone else’s tweet
  • @: the symbol you put at the front of someone’s Twitter username to reference them in a tweet. You can also use this to respond to a question or comment they’ve tweeted.
  • Direct: sending one of your followers a direct message that no one else can see

To use these features via the standard Twitter interface, you’ll need to know some tags and codes…but if you’re using something like Twhirl, it’s spelled out much more clearly. The windows look much like a chat interface, and you can mouse over a user’s name to get the retweet, @ and direct options without using any tags in a post.Feeling a little more comfortable yet? Great, because now I’m going to get into the nitty-gritty of making Twitter work for you.Step one after setting up your account and various selected tools is to figure out what you’re going to say on Twitter. Are you going to be referring people back to your Web site? To other sites? To other tweets? Are you going to have a dedicated person managing your Twitter account, or are multiple people going to handle its content?Once you’ve put your system in place and determined the types of messages you’re going to send, determine a goal for the frequency of your tweets. It’s most effective to have at least one tweet a day, and more is better (as long as you don’t inundate your followers with incessant babble). Aim for one tweet a week to get started, and let your Twitter plan evolve from there.Here are some thought starters for Twitter content:

  • New hires
  • Promotions
  • Projects won
  • Projects completed
  • Press releases
  • Being featured in the news
  • Other noteworthy articles
  • New stories that affect your industry/company
  • Speaking engagements
  • Publications
  • Events
  • (You get the picture!)

One thing you will want to be careful about is sharing confidential information. Make sure that you have approval from a client to post anything about them or their projects, and also don’t tip off competitors to information that you’ve received about prospective work. You never know-they just might be following you on Twitter!Don’t feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of information that you can share on Twitter. Remember that there are queueing services like Twuffer and Tweetlater, and utilize these to reduce your time spent on sending messages. I recommend that you set aside a half hour a week (or an hour a month, etc.) programming your tweets. Then, you can just respond to any inquiries that come up via direct or @ messaging.Another way to simplify your posting is to set up an automatic tweet every time you add something to your company’s blog or media section on your website. If your site happens to be powered by WordPress, there are simple plugins like TwitMe to do this for you. Otherwise, you can explore options like Twitterfeed and TwitThis (a service that adds a button to all your posts so viewers can send its link to their Twitter followers). A simple addition of some javascript code by your IT manager or web expert makes the process seamless.So you might still be asking, “Seriously, what can this do for me?” Let me give you a hypothetical example.Let’s say that you have started a Twitter account for your company and have accumulated 200 followers-employees, media, prospects, clients and other interested parties. You post a tweet like this: “@mycompany just completed its 10th LEED-certified building!” Subsequently, 10 of your followers retweeted your message, and each of those followers had 100 followers of their own. Already, you’ve pushed your message to 1,200 people (and they’re all people who agreed to receive your messages, or they received it from a trusted member of their own Twitter network).In addition, let’s pretend that one of your followers is an industry publication representative. They send you a direct message asking for a press release on the groundbreaking, and they’re interested in writing a feature article on your company. That’s a win!Then, you get a call from a developer who’s interested in LEED-certified buildings in your state. It turns out that he was a follower of one of your followers that retweeted your message, and he trusts that person since he knows them personally (rather than seeing an advertisement). That’s another win!And finally, you take a look at your Google Analytics for your company’s Web site and see a steady increase of traffic since implementing your Twitter marketing plan. You’re able to see that 50% of your site traffic came from Twitter on the day you posted the message about your 10th LEED-certified building. That’s another win, because you’re exposing prospects to your Web site and developing brand awareness.Believe me when I say that it’s not just teenagers and housewives using Twitter. There have been dozens of stories in the news about high-level executives and celebrities using Twitter. Sure, some of them probably have assistants and publicists in charge of their accounts, but there are plenty of influential people who actually do their own tweeting. And those are the people you want to reach.Finally, you’re probably wondering how to get followers. It’s easy to ask employees and consultants to follow you, but then what? First, add a link to your Twitter profile on your website. Next, you should mention it in your company newsletter. And finally, simply start following other people. Many people will return the favor by following you if they find your profile to be interesting or relevant. You can anticipate doing this more at the outset of your Twitter marketing program, but you’ll naturally accumulate followers as time passes.Hopefully I’ve quelled some of your fears about Twitter and given you some action items you can implement successfully in your firm. Just remember, Twitter is a powerful form of push marketing, and it needn’t take much of your time if you’ve put an organized foundation in place. And because it hasn’t been overly utilized in the A/E/C industry, early adopters have a real opportunity to own this communication vehicle.Author: Lauren YantArticle Source: EzineArticles.comProvided by: Canada duty tariff

© 2012, ©Active Consultants 2011. All rights reserved. Copying in part or in entirety only permitted by written consent

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